Men, women and children all over the world are taken by force or coercion into commercial prostitution and sex slavery. This isn’t just happening in distant, poorer lands. This is taking place in Australia.
In June 2009, Stephanie Lorenzo read Somaly Mam’s ‘The Road of Lost Innocence’. Somaly Mam was a former child sex slave who has now become one of the leading activists against human trafficking in the world. She has even orchestrated raids on brothels to rescue slaved sex workers. There is a Liam Neeson out there after all!
Lorenzo became impassioned over the horror of human trafficking. Aged just twenty four at the time, Lorenzo organised a bike ride with Raw Travel through Cambodia to raise money and awareness for the issue. Individuals who wanted to help had to pay a $500 registration fee and raise a minimum of $5000. 30% of the money raised paid for their trip and 70% of the funds were donated to the Somaly Mam Foundation and AFESIP. Lorenzo set up a website with an information page and released the idea to her friends, family and work colleagues more or less saying: This is what I’m doing, who wants to be a part of it?
Twenty one people joined her on the ride and they raised over $80000.
On this trip, Lorenzo and her fellow riders interacted with survivors of the sex trade, and met Somaly Man. As you can imagine, the trip was extremely moving and empowering. That can’t be it, Lorenzo thought. It was too great an experience to leave it at that.
With an attitude of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ driving her, Lorenzo once again began calling on the advice and skills of friends and family to help make Project Futures more than just a one-off event. She quickly realised that more people wanted to see her to succeed than not. She quickly became the kind-hearted dictator of a group of young professionals that used their social networking skills to run events and campaigns with a focus on raising awareness about human trafficking.
Since that first ride, Project Futures has run three more rides, launched numerous parties and campaigns including the Stella Fella campaign that has pulled in stars such as Rugby League player Jarryd Hayne, actor Dan MacPherson and singer Guy Sebastian. All this has helped them raise over $450,000. In January 2011, Project Futures went global and is now utilized by the Somali Mam foundation as a global youth movement.
What is amazing about Lorenzo is that she strongly believes she has no necessary skills that make her a fundraising superwoman. This communications graduate simply possessed determination, common sense and an ability to outsource any work she couldn’t do. She was merely the contact point for lots of talented workers.
However, Lorenzo is not happy with just raising money and awareness. She wants Project Futures to revolutionize the way young people see charities. Charities don’t have to be led by those annoying street hawkers on George Street. Money can be raised every week, just by leveraging our social calendar. Lorenzo’s greatest aim is to make social networking equal social responsibility.
So next time you sit there thinking this world is so messed up and that you're too insignificant to achieve anything. Think of Stephanie Lorenzo and realise individuals can make a difference. Check out her DIY event brochure and start your own event.